On the 19th April Richard Alderman delivered his final speech in office as Director of the Serious Fraud Office to the Young Fraud Lawyers in the North Association. As a committee member of the organisation, I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the event.

During his speech Mr Alderman focused on how the Serious Fraud Office had developed over the last ten years and how he saw the future of the department.

Digital and Social Media featured in Mr Alderman’s comments and the impact they have upon corruption and fraud in today’s world.

The cyber world and social media do not only impact upon fraud and corruption but illegal conduct as a whole. Social networking sites have featured prominently in a number of high profile criminal cases in recent times.

Liam Stacey, a 21 year old student was sentenced to 56 days imprisonment in March of this year for an offence contrary to Section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986. Mr Stacey had posted racially abusive messages on Twitter regarding Fabrice Muamba. The comments were made shortly after the Bolton Wanderers player collapsed as a result of cardiac arrest.

Section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986 states that:

A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

In the case of S v DPP [2008] EWHC 438 (Admin), S was convicted of an offence under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 the facts being that S had posted an image which was later used on an animal rights website. The Queen’s Bench Division dismissed the argument put forward by S and upheld the reasoning of the District Judge that “any person who posts material on the internet puts that material within the public ambit’.

Arrests for defamatory material on the internet and social networking sites continue. Arrests have been made recently in the North East regarding racist comments and it is well established how social networking was utilised to organise the riots in August of last year. In March 2012 a 21 year old male who made racist comments about broadcaster Stan Collymore on Twitter received a two-year community order requiring him to complete 240 hours of unpaid work.

Great care needs to be taken with the internet, social media and social networking as a whole. Whilst people are seemingly less inhibited to post comments on social media sites and profiles, any posts on the internet can potentially be viewed from anyone in the world, and cases involving social media postings can and do result in custodial sentences.

If you have been arrested for a internet or social media crime specialist advice should be sought from the outset. To find out how Farleys specialist team can provide advice and representation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. A criminal law solicitor can be contacted 24 hours a day on our emergency line 01254 606050.